In a recent game, the Florida Gators had to win by 18 points or less in order for Iona to make the NCAA tournament. The Matadors advanced on two late buzzer beaters from Will Worth, who was shooting 0% from 3-point range up until that point of regulation.

The “coach vitale” is a mid-major college basketball coach. The “coach vitale” was recently fired by the “Louisville Cardinals”, but has been hired by the “Iona Gaels”.

Rick Pitino and Iona among Dick Vitale's mid

I’ve been watching a lot of games since I’ve been unable to call games due to my cancer diagnosis and inability to speak. Every year, a few of mid-major teams emerge from nowhere to challenge for a national ranking. During March Madness, they’ll become some of the Cinderella tales. I’ve compiled a list of the top seven mid-majors who have impressed me this season. I’m sure you could make a case for a dozen!

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After defeating Eastern Illinois on Thursday, the Racers are on a six-game winning run. Murray State’s lone defeats were against highly rated Auburn and East Tennessee State on neutral ground. At Memphis, one of the most remarkable victories occurred. Tevin Brown has had a remarkable career, becoming the all-time leader in three-point field goals at the school.

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Bob McKillop has a long and illustrious career that includes mentoring Steph Curry. McKillop’s Wildcats have won 14 consecutive games to become a favorite in the Atlantic 10. San Francisco and New Mexico State are the two losers. In a game played in Birmingham, Davidson defeated Alabama by a large margin. Three of the past four victories, though, were decided by four points or less. The Wildcats have been a good shooter, making over 42% of their three-point attempts.

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Rick Pitino’s squad has been plagued by COVID troubles, but they remain a favorite in the MAAC and just defeated Monmouth in a significant victory. Kansas, Belmont, and Saint Louis all defeated the Gaels (by one point). Those setbacks are not to be ashamed of. In Orlando, Iona defeated Alabama by a large margin. At 14.7 points per game, Tyson Jolly leads a balanced assault.

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Some may have worried whether the program would suffer if Oklahoma hired Porter Moser away from Loyola. Drew Valentine’s first season with the Ramblers has provided a loud no to that question. Valentine, who began the season as the youngest Division I head coach, has Loyola rated in the AP Top 25 this week (age 30). In the Battle 4 Atlantis, Valentine’s team only lost to currently ranked Auburn and Michigan State. Loyola is on a 10-game winning run and boasts victories against San Francisco, Arizona State, DePaul, and Vanderbilt on its resume. Loyola is a high-powered offensive club that shoots above 50% from the field.

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Kentucky and LSU, two rated SEC teams, were the Bobcats’ only defeats. Ohio is on a nine-game winning run and is 5-0 in the Mid-American Conference. The average margin of victory in league games is 11 points per game, including victories against strong opponents like as Cleveland State, Belmont, and Marshall. The Bobcats depend on the trifecta, which they score 8.7 times a game.

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Since calling a WCC tournament game featuring them, I’ve been pleased with Todd Golden’s program. Davidson, UAB, UNLV, Fresno State, and Arizona State are among the Dons’ victories. Gonzaga, Loyola Chicago, BYU, and Grand Canyon were all defeated. Jamaree Bouyea leads the squad in scoring with 18.3 points per game.

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I was ecstatic to call the 2021 ESPN Events Invitational final between Belmont and Dayton in Orlando. The Flyers won a thrilling game, but Belmont proved it belongs in the semifinals, defeating Iona. Belmont has won nine of its previous eleven games, including a heartbreaking defeat to Morehead State on Thursday night.

The V Foundation’s 17th annual Dick Vitale Gala will be place on May 6, 2022, at the Ritz-Carlton in Sarasota, Florida. Visit dickvitaleonline.com for additional details.

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